By Alex Bullock
Last week we followed the news stories coming out of Boston about the bombings and the subsequent manhunt for the men responsible for committing such a terrible act.
Sports can be used as a place to get away from the stresses of life; they can serve as a safe an appropriate outlet for our energy and passions. The bombings at the Boston Marathon, an event treated like a holiday in the city of Boston, infringed on the people’s ability to utilize sports and entertainment as a refuge, instead turning it into a scene of chaos and fear.
It was only fitting, then, that the biggest signs of healing outside of the bomber’s surrender from a boat in Watertown came at sporting events, especially in a sports-loving city like Boston.
On Wednesday the Boston Bruins played the first major sporting event in Boston after the bombings. On the schedule it seemed like any other regular season hockey game, just a mid-week night matchup against the Buffalo Sabres, but after the bombings it became much more than that. The added security at the TD Bank Garden reflected the uneasy feelings of the city, but once fans were able to find their seats they shared in an impromptu moving rendition of the national anthem.
Even though the Bruins lost to the Sabres it seemed like the takeaway from the game was bigger than the game itself. The fans left knowing that the city was strong: “Boston strong.”
Those words adorned a Bruins jersey in the locker room with the number 617, the city’s area code. A similar jersey hung in the dugout of the Boston Red Sox as they played a series in Cleveland.
The team’s return to Fenway Park on Saturday saw a huge American flag covering the famous Green Monster in left field and beloved slugger David Ortiz addressed the crowd before their dramatic 4-3 win.
“This is our [expletive] city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong,” Ortiz said.
Additionally, music legend Neil Diamond visited Fenway Park to lead the crowd in a live edition of the Red Sox’ unofficial anthem “Sweet Caroline”. The song was played at ballparks across the country throughout the week to show solidarity and support for the city of Boston, even at Yankee Stadium, the home of the rival New York Yankees.
The Boston Celtics added patches to their jerseys reading “Boston Stand as One” as they opened their first round playoff series against the New York Knicks in New York.
I read a post on SB Nation last week by Paul Flannery, a blogger from Boston, that did well to describe the culture of sport in Boston and just how important the Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins are to the city:
“The B’s and C’s and Sox and Pats. They all mean something a little bit different. The Celtics are our pride, the Sox are our daily conversation and the Patriots are our f-you to everybody, which is much different than when they were our joke. Things change. The Bruins are our soul. Muckers and grinders for a hardhat city and all that,” Flannery wrote.
Right now the people of Boston need their sports teams. Win or lose, it takes their minds off of the tragedy they have faced in the past week. That’s the beauty of sports: it provides us with a sense of familiarity and community that bring them comfort and relief from their stresses. It provides us stories of resiliency and achievement.
I am thankful that I have never experienced tragedy on such a large scale so close to home, but I know that in my community and many others, sports have been used as a source of healing and a path back to normalcy.
I can’t wait to see the 2014 Boston Marathon when the streets of a city once wounded will be filled to the brim with people showing that they will not allow themselves to be weighed down by tragedy; showing a healed city and a national community who grows stronger with every bump in the road. It will be a beautiful scene to watch, and nothing other than sport could provide the venue.